How to Dress Your Horse: Equitation, Presented by Kensington Protective Products

In equitation, the focus may be on the rider — but that doesn’t mean your horse’s requirements should go ignored. He’s important too. What can your horse wear in the equitation ring? Heels Down is here to help.

While not quite as conservative as the hunter ring, the equitation ring also stays fairly traditional when it comes to tack and equipment. It’s as if the jumper ring and the hunter ring had a baby, but the hunter ring retained full custody. Or something like that.

The following information is according to USEF rules and guidelines. If you’re showing outside of the United States, consult your national federation’s rulebook. Check your local circuit’s rules as well, as they may differ.

As with the regular hunter and jumper divisions, there are differences between the Hunter Seat Equitation classes and Jumper Seat Equitation divisions such as the USEF Talent Search, WIHS Jumper Phase, and the USHJA Jumping Seat Medal.

Bridles and Bits

In both Hunter Seat Equitation and Jumper Seat Equitation, legal bits include snaffles, pelhams, kimberwickes, and full bridles. While two-rings, three-rings, and gags — other than hunter gags — are illegal in hunter equitation, jumper equitation allows them. In jumper equitation, anything other than the bits mentioned in this paragraph are expressly prohibited.

In both divisions, riders may change bridles and/or bits in between phases.

For nosebands, riders can’t use drops, flashes, or figure eights in hunter equitation classes, but all of those plus regular cavessons are legal in jumper equitation classes.

Martingales

There are slight differences for martingale usage between the divisions as well. In both divisions, martingales can be used over fences, but not on the flat unless the class specifications specifically allow it. For hunter equitation, no restrictions regarding martingale type are mentioned in the rulebook. For jumper equitation, running martingales are legal, but German martingales, draw reins, and restricted martingales are prohibited.

Saddles

For saddles, the world is your oyster. Same goes for saddle pads — as no mention is made of them, anything is legal. But, just like with the regular hunter ring, conservative is your friend. Go easy on the embellishments, and using a white, shaped fleece or sheepskin saddle pad is your best bet.

Jumper Equitation Extras

In jumper equitation classes, it’s expressly allowed to use bit converters, nose nets, and conservatively colored boots and bandages on the legs (no bandages or wraps can be used anywhere else, including belly bands). As of December 2017, only 500 grams (or 17.637 ounces) of total leg equipment — such as boots, fetlock rings, etc. — can be added to a horse’s leg, excluding shoes.

Other Equipment

For both equitation rings, spurs, crops, or bats can be used, but they must be a conservative color.

Stirrups

A few years ago, rules were changed to where black-colored stirrups became forbidden in the two equitation rings because they made it more difficult for judges to see riders’ foot placement in the stirrups. This prevented the use of many popular brands of plastic composite-material stirrups.

In 2016 the rule was changed to say only that it is “recommended” that riders use traditional stainless steel stirrups that “allow judges a clear and unobstructed view of the position of the foot in the stirrup.” Judges cannot eliminate riders for using any particular stirrup style, but note that it could affect placings.

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